Monday, October 13, 2003

Sorry to read where Steven Wintle's discontinuing his Flat Earth comics blog. Earth was one of the first blogs to link to yours truly, and vice versa, and I'll miss stopping by there occasionally. Hopefully he'll be back soon.
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Posthumous BSBdG's go out today to Lenny Bruce, who would have been 78.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

My Nebraska Adventure, part deux:

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Here I am, at the state line, scanning the horizon for something...anything...
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What I bought and what I thought, week of October 1

H-E-R-O 9
The H-dial ends up in the hands of a perpetually behind-the-eightball Gotham City second story man this time out, and it's a well-written and illustrated study of a fellow who's been given a golden ticket and is determined not to foul up again. Whether or not he manages to pull this off remains to be seen, but I really enjoyed the character interaction that was the core of this particular issue of this recently underachieving series. A

JLA 88
You know, Joe Kelly writes a damn good Plastic Man. If I was in charge of DC, I think I'd just pay Kyle Baker to do a one-shot special and turn the ongoing Plas book over to Joe K. Formerly Known as the Justice League has all the laughs, but those guys don't have anything on Kelly, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, especially on page 16. I dare say that this title, right now, is about as good as it gets for mainstream superheroics these days, and am gratified to see my faith in Kelly through several lackluster story arcs has not gone unrequited. I've always had the utmost faith in Mahnke and Nguyen. A

100 BULLETS 47
In which we catch up with the homicidal heroin addict from a year or so ago, and find out what he's been up to with his briefcase full of the titular ammo. After a long Batman-assignment inspired wait, what we have here is the introductory chapter of another longish arc, and a somewhat confusing ending, which I'm sure will be cleared up eventually. Still first rate, but the jury's out until the story's farther along. A-

Hey, I didn't know this was a weekly! But it's OK, because despite my unfamiliarity with Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man (Pete's not so much of a genius there, I take it?) I'm really enjoying the dramatics. Great back-and-forth between Nick Fury and Pete, and Tony Stark cracks me up (himself, too). Hairsine and Miki are getting more comfortable with their Hitch-isms. All good so far. A-

The story meanders, and perhaps it was a bit soon to go back to the flashback well after The Last Castle...but Linda Medley was born to do this sort of thing and she brings her Castle Waiting style to great effect. I wouldn't mind seeing her do more fill-ins in the future, for sure, and the cover by James Jean is one of the best I've seen in a while. B+

This ambitious, but convoluted and dull multi-issue multi-dimensional multi-time period extravaganza is finally, and thankfully, over. Actually, this chapter was a bit livelier than the previous ones, mostly thanks to Jerry Ordway- who's not a favorite of mine but did a solid job for the most part in his stolid, competent style. As with last issue, the Chris Sprouse cover homage, this time a swipe of Crisis On Infinite Earths, is the highlight. C+

1602 3
I just don't think Gaiman has his heart in this, which only partially explains how this can be so overwritten and underwritten at the same time. Maybe he just doesn't get the same thrill poking around in Marvel's trash pile as he did when it came to his own creations in Sandman... anyway, this, to me, comes across as journeyman and uninspired, almost like someone's ghosting it for him, and Andy Kubert's trying really hard to animate it all, but that Isanove fella's relentless Photoshopping saps all the life out of his art- making it blurry and hard to focus upon. A perfect example of a C grade comic if I ever saw one. Not a complete disaster, though- I liked this issue's cover. C
My baloney has a first name, it's

Johnny B's Fearless Pigskin Prognostications!

Tampa Bay over Washington- even though the banged up Bucs are coming off a Monday night, and even though the game is on the road, I still believe they have enough to beat the not-bad Skinnies. This is the first of many hard-to-predict games this week.

Indianapolis over Carolina- I don't think the Colts will put up 30 plus on another tough defense this week, but I like the Colts at home in a low scoring squeaker. And you didn't think Carolina was going to go 5-0, did you?

New England over the New York Giants- The Giants just haven't looked all that solid over the last couple of weeks, and the Pats have gotten better since week one. I like the Patsies in a close one.

Tennessee over Houston- again, I gotta go with the home team in what I think will be a high scoring game, with the Flaming Thumbtacks winning by a field goal.

Green Bay over Kansas City- you know, almost every game this weekend could be decided by a FG or less. Here's another one. The Pack has been getting slowly better, and I just can't see KC going 6-0.

Cleveland over Oakland- boy, will Al Davis be pissed when the inconsistent Raiders lose this one. Cleveland appears to be jellin'. Like a felon. (sorry)

Philadelphia over Dallas- Philly's got it together now, and c'mon- you didn't think the Cowboys were that good, didja? This one will be close, though, and could go either way.

Miami over Jacksonville- I've been picking against the Dolphins a lot lately, and have regretted it each time, so here. Miami will win this, but it won't be a blowout, even though (Leftwich aside) the Jag-wires don't have much on the ball on either side.

New Orleans over Chicago- this battle of the wretched will be a hard fought contest (bet you can still get good tickets in NO), but the Aints will pull it out, since they allegedly have more firepower on offense. Besides, a Aints win will put my beloved Falcons in last place, and you just know that's gonna happen.

Denver over Pittsburgh- The Steelers should be better than they've showed so far, but they aren't, thanks to their inability to run the football. I don't think they're gonna get better at the Habitual Liars' expense.

Buffalo over the New York Jets- the Bills have just got too much for the sorry Jets to deal with. We always used to say "your chances are skinny when you go with Vinny"...

Arizona over Baltimore- look, I have no logical reason for making this pick. None whatsoever. There's just a little voice in my head telling me the Ravens will wilt in the desert, so I'm gonna take a chance here.

Seattle over San Franscisco- I look for the Seahawks, who totally collapsed in Green Bay last weekend, to snap back big over the disorganized 49ers. When the perpetually clueless Dennis Erickson (and you 'Hawks fans know all about him, don'tcha) claims that he thinks their problems will be solved by emphasizing the running game, then you just know that dark days are ahead for the Niner faithful. Heh heh.

St. Louis over Atlanta- that same little voice was telling me that my hapless Birds will pull one out in St. L., but I refuse to listen to him twice in one week. Doesn't mean I won't be rooting for it to happen, though...actually, I'm just rooting for my guys to avoid yet another Monday night humiliation.

Last week: 8-6. Overall: 49-24, a .671 winning percentage.

Friday, October 10, 2003

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Time now for a couple of significant BSBdG's! First up, that purveyor of craptacular cinema Edward D. Wood, Jr., who would have been 79 if he hadn't woke up early the day he died, and

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John Prine, 57 today. There are few people on the face of the planet that can write songs better than our boy John.
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I was a bit surprised when I got so much reaction to my recent mention of John Cale's Paris 1919 album, so when Mrs. B was taking a round of pictures to finish up a roll so we could take them to get developed, I grabbed my copy of that record, and now we are forever immortalized for posterity. Or something like that.
Good morning!

Before I finish the movie list below, and begin comics reviews for this week, I'd like to make a comment or two about one of the many topics that have making the rounds in the comics blogosphereiverse lately: John Byrne's typically shortsighted and disingenuous comment (and no, this isn't a quote, just my interpretation) that because he feels that superheroes and superhero comics should maintain the sort of innocence they had over thirty years ago, then books like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns should never have happened. He attempts to establish a label of "all ages" books versus "books for all ages". Jim Henley has crafted a deservedly celebrated response which I wish he had posted on Byrne's board, just to see the reaction.

I can understand that lots of people are uncomfortable with any sort of presumably "mature" content, no matter how slight (one of the posters on Byrne's message board relays the eyebrow-raising story of a minister who was shocked and disgusted by the sexual content in an Eighties issue of Green fricking Arrow, for Chrissakes!), but to expect the medium to remain, intellectually, at the reading level of the average ten year old is self-defeating and limiting, to say the least. To me, the inherent preposterousness of, for example, a young man being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining spider-like powers rather than dying of radiation poisoning is an obstacle for the good writer or artist to overcome, rather than a ironclad, inviolable convention which must remain unquestioned. That being said, I think intent is important here as well...I myself was offended, recently, by a story arc in (again! Hmm...) Green Arrow, by Kevin Smith, in which the innocuous 60s DC humor characters Stanley and His Monster were shoehorned into a convoluted storyline that attempts to explain how GA returned from the dead, and gave us the lovely sight of teenage Stanley, imprisoned in a mystic bubble and being forced by his Uncle to drink the blood of murdered children in an attempt to control his Monster, now set up as a demon from Hell (we have Phil Foglio, of all people, to thank for that). I saw this as a cynical trashing of simple characters from a more innocent time, based on the reasoning that "nobody gives a shit about Stanley and his Monster anyway, so what the hell". The upshot of all this is that I know where Byrne and his message board sycophants are coming from- they have the same conviction about all superhero characters that I had for poor Stanley and his Monster. But that doesn't mean I agree. I want to see characters I read grow and develop, and am always interested in what talented creators can do with the conventions of the comics world as we know it now. If their intent is mean-spirited or cynical, well, that's OK too, but please don't make it gratuitously so. It's a fine line, and many people are unwilling or unable to make this distinction. They want to remain 15 years old every time they crack a new comic, and it's just sad.

One other thing- I wonder if Byrne is so dismissive of Watchmen because he began his career at Charlton?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

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Gotta send out a special BSBdG today to Dr. WInston O'Boogie, aka John Lennon, who would have been 63.

Today also is the day that John and Yoko Ono first met at that fated Indicia Gallery show back in 1966, as well as the day he released his big comeback single "(Just Like) Starting Over" in 1980, and the birthday of J & Y's son Sean Lennon, 28, who has become quite an interesting artist in his own right.

Another, non-Lennon significant birthday today: Polly Jean Harvey, 34.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

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In an attempt to get in on Sean Collins' "Where The Monsters Go" blogfest, here's a list of ten of my favorite horror films.

A disclaimer first: I tried to narrow this down to what I consider "horror" films, which means I leave off films dealing with A-bomb-spawned giant monsters, or menaces from outer space. These often get lumped in with the horror genre, even though they're more like Science Fiction films. Also, you'll notice that there's not a lot of recent movies on this list; and it's not because there haven't been any good horror films in the last two decades. Far from it. But what I've tried to do is cite flicks that have made a lasting impression on me, not to mention the first ones I think of without too much trouble (or lots of minutes spent flipping through my Psychotronic books)- and most of those are from my formative years, i.e. ages oh, 4 to 17, when I subsisted on a steady diet of The Big Show, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creature Features and The Monster Times. I've written about this before, so I'll spare you now.

So here we go, and these are in no particular order:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Clever, stylish, and somewhat campy flick that ushered in a brief "imaginative death movie starring Vincent Price" phase, others being the inferior sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), the sublime Theatre of Blood (1973), and the lackluster Madhouse (1974). Price stars as the title character, a concert organist thought dead in a car crash that blames the team of surgeons who failed to save his wife on the operating table. Badly burned and seeking revenge, he murders each of the surgical team in a fashion based on the plagues that Moses inflicted on Pharoah in the Bible. Bats, bees, boils, etc. One doctor (Terry-Thomas) has all his blood drained from his body...Phibes leaves the jars on his mantle. You get the picture. He uses makeup to reconstruct his burned away face, and has to plug into an old Victrola in order to bypass his crushed throat and speak. He's assisted by a mysterious, beautiful mute female named Vulnavia. Believe it or not, this movie gave me the creeps when I first saw it at age 13, simply because the Doctor thwarted all efforts to stop his murder spree, and my overactive imagination had me identifying with his intended victims. I was quite obsessed with this film for a long long time- it appealed to my visual proclivities (it's full of cool-looking art deco-period sets and flavor) and by its witty, lean script. Still never miss it when I have the opportunity to see it.

Curse of the Demon (1958)
Another Big Show favorite, full of mood, atmosphere and vivid characters and shot in gloriously oppressive black and white. Dana Andrews is a clinical psychologist/professional skeptic who, while on a book tour in jolly old England, runs afoul of a leader of a pagan cult, played by Niall McGinnis with just the right amount of detached menace and droll wit, who sics a fearsome demon on those who cross his path via a small parchment on which runes have been written. The director, Jacques (Cat People) Tourneur, was on record as not wanting to show the actual demon; but this was the 50s and right in the middle of the giant monster movie craze so the producers won out. He's probably right in hindsight- the demon itself is a pretty obvious puppet. Tourneur piled on the atmosphere and his effects crew came up with a very imaginative way to depict the demon's coming and going, so it turned out mostly OK, and the creature has gone on to become an easily recognized monster icon of days gone by. The final confrontation between Andrews and McGinnis on a train (shades of Hitchcock!) is worth the price of admission. Never miss this one, either, when I get an opportunity.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
One of the most entertaining horror films ever, this one walks a fine line between satire and seriousness, thanks to the playful script by John Balderston and William Hurlbut (no, I don't know what else they ever did) and direction by everyone's favorite gay filmmaker James Whale. I find it hard to believe that those of you out there reading this haven't seen it at least once, so I won't go into details, but I will say that besides the direction I'm always amazed by the flat out excellent cast, especially Ernest Thesiger as the brittily deranged Doctor Praetorius. It's not necessary- and if you love this film you've probably already seen it- but if not I highly recommend viewing the 1998 Whale-centric film Gods and Monsters, which features Ian (Gandalf) McKellen in an absolutely outstanding performance as the director in the last years of his life.

The Black Cat (1934)
Visually striking, with all its art deco touches (think I like that period?) and full of creepy atmosphere, The Black Cat is not only the first screen teaming of Karloff and Lugosi but also a weird psychological thriller, more inspired by Alastair Crowley than Edgar Allan Poe. It's also surprisingly violent, since it was filmed before the Hays Code came along. Doctor Vitus Verdegast (Lugosi), left for dead by Hjalmar Poelzig (Karloff) engineer (and devil cult leader) when they were both in the war, has returned to the European scene of the conflict seeking his wife, who was stolen by Poelzig, who led her to believe her husband was dead, and a young American couple gets mixed up in their vendetta. And then it gets even stranger. Karloff is cool as hell all dressed in black from head to toe, with a pronounced widow's peak and made up in a pallor. Sometimes he ever appears to have pointed ears! With John Carradine in a cameo as Poelzig's butler (he appeared briefly in Bride of Frankenstein, too) and the famous Lugosi line: "Superstitious perhaps...baloney, perhaps not!". I also love how Bela spits out the line at the end "Do you know what I'm going to do to you now, Hjalmar?"...

Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express (1972), also known as Horror Express
In fact, it's usually always known as Horror Express, but Panic was the original release title and it's far, far cooler. This is one of those movies that defies categorization, and is always worth a look on those infrequent occasions when it pops up on TV, if nothing else but for the nutball ending. In this one, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing appear together for the umpteenth time as rival archaeoligists in 1906...Lee has discovered a frozen Yeti-like creature which just happens to be inhabited by an alien lifeforce. Of course, the creature thaws out and kills people, first absorbing all their knowledge and then causing their eyes bleed and turn white. It has the ability to posess people as well, further causing The Thing-style terror among the passengers. Eventually, they are revived by the creature as glowing-eyed zombies, completely under its control. The titular panic ensues, eventually climaxing with a great, intense scene with the frightened survivors cowering in the front of the train, which is hurtling across the arctic wastes of Siberia, awaiting the zombies who slowly advance towards them... Express also features Telly Savalas, who hams it up as the leader of a group of Cossacks who board the train. Good choice, Telly. The script kinda defies logic, and except for Cushing and Lee (and scenery-chewing Savalas), nobody much can act, but I still love this movie.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
This film first came to my attention when it was featured in (and my memory is spotty here) the first issue of Modern Monsters magazine. They had lots of pictures and a synopsis of the film, and I couldn't wait until I saw it. Luckily, not long after it was shown on the Big Show one weekday afternoon, and it made a huge impression on 6 year old me. I'm sure most you are familiar with the story, which involves Kevin McCarthy's doctor character discovering an alien plot to replace Earth people with "pod people". There are so many scenes which stay in my memory, such as the discovery of the pods in the greenhouse, the exhausted McCarthy and his girlfriend hiding out from pursuing pod people in a cave on the outskirts of town, and of course the unforgettable scene where McCarthy tries to flag down passing motorists and get someone, anyone to believe his story. Unfortunately, someone decided to tack on a chickenshit ending, in which the military saves the day. Still, this is a riveting and highly effective film. The 1978 remake, with Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, and Leonard Nimoy (and Kevin McCarthy, still running around in traffic in a clever cameo) has its moments as well.

Re-Animator (1985)
The first time I watched this, in 1986, I remember being simply slack-jawed in amazement. I had seen gore films before, and I had seen humorous horror films as well, but never one as audacious and over-the-top as this one. Again, I'm sure many of you are very familiar with this story of a renegade med student, Herbert West by name, played with prissy intensity by Jeffrey Combs (who'll always be remembered for this film, no matter what else he does) who discovers a serum (which looks like the stuff inside glow sticks- or perhaps fortified Mountain Dew...hmm...) which reanimates dead tissue, in effect bringing the dead back to life. Problem is, the dead don't seem to like it very much, because they invariably come back all pissed off and in some cases downright evil. And Dr. West doesn't care- he doggedly pursues his experimentation regardless of the consequences. Featuring the head placed on a bill stacker because it won't sit up on its own, and a scene which gives an all-new meaning to the phrase "giving head". I've seen gorier films, and I've seen funnier, but I've never seen one which manages to balance all the right tones like this film does. Adapted from an H.P. Lovecraft story, in case ya didn't know. This is one of those films everyone who has an interest in horror or fantasy should see at least once.

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
"...And Boy Does He Give a Hickey" read the US poster copy. Sheesh. Anyway, this Hammer horror was frequently aired on CBS's Late Movie in the 70s, like many of my other fave films such as Dr. Phibes (above), The Circus of Dr. Lao and The Valley of Gwangi. And please note that this is a list of my fave horror films, not what I think are the best horror films. Big difference, and here's a case in point. Early Hammer horror flicks like Horror of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein are much better than the flock of sequels that followed in their wake, but I've always had a soft spot for this looney tunes vampire pitcher which is quite entertaining and action packed if you don't think about it too hard. The scriptwriters were trying to see what they could get away with, and this one played very fast and loose with vampire lore- sometimes imaginatively: the athiest hero stakes Drac, only to see the Count pull the stake back out because he wouldn't pray as he did so; and sometimes head-slapping stupidly: Lee's Dracula further refines his "feral, uncerebral and unthinking, yet suave and seductive when necessary" persona as he wastes most of the film on an illogical and somewhat beneath him revenge plot against the Monsignor who has nailed a cross to the door of his castle. Also, there's a scene which I've always assumed was a flashback about the discovery of a body in a church bell- cool imagery, but unless it was a flashback, there was no way Drac could have done it, because he was still supposed to be out of commission, even if he could figure out how to enter a church! Still, logic gaps notwithstanding it's a rousingly good adventure story with good performances and nice atmosphere, especially in the rooftop scenes about halfway in. Also, this one features a bravura death scene for the Count. Another one I never miss when it airs.

White Zombie (1932)
No, not Rob Zombie's former band but the picture he named it after, a creaky and dated, but still eerie and effective vehicle for Lugosi, in his first film since Dracula. I read somewhere where he only got $800 bucks for this. Poor Bela. Anyway, the sets are great, atmosphere is laid on thick and heavy, and there are lots of the living dead shuffling around all over the place, especially one big hairy bruiser with bug eyes who functions as Bela's flunky. Honestly, this is a very static and poorly acted (with the exception of Lugosi and perhaps Madge Bellamy, the damsel in distress) film, but the visuals will stay with you for a long time, and since (as I'm sure you all are aware of by now) visuals are very important to me that's the main reason I cite this movie. Another zombie flick I've always had a soft spot for: Zombies of Mora Tau, a low budget 50s obscurity with sexy Allison Hayes (that's right, the original 50 Foot Woman) that was regularly shown on the Big Show.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The grandaddy of modern horror movies, it was so groundbreaking then and is still amazingly effective after all these years, especially when one considers the miniscule budget it had. One memorable scene after the other, with laffs, chills, and shocks and a refreshing lack of pretension or scientific explanations. As with so many on this list, I'd be surprised if you haven't seen this at least once and know exactly what I mean, but if you haven't then what the heck are you waiting for? This was pointlessly remade in color a few years ago and while it wasn't terrible it still couldn't hold a candle to the original. Also worth checking out, besides the sequels Day and Dawn of the Dead, is the great, funny semi-sequel Return of the Living Dead (1985), from whence came that notion of zombies staggering around looking to eat "...braaiiins...".

Wheeeew. That's it. Here are some honorable mentions: Halloween (1978), Innocent Blood (1992), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Return of Dracula (1957), Curse of the Undead (1959), Fright Night (1985) ("Oh, you're so cool, Brewster!") The Devil's Backbone (2001), The Sixth Sense (1999) and Psycho (1960).

Thanks for bearing with me while I finished this darn thing!
Casting a now-revitalized eye at the Diamond shipping list for today, I see where I'll be getting:

100 BULLETS #47
H-E-R-O #9
JLA #88
1602 #3

That's all, folks! I'm really looking forward to that JLA book, which will be the penultimate chapter of Joe Kelly's best storyline yet. 100 Bullets and Fables are always welcome, as well.
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Good morning!

Yesterday I bought a can of Whoop-Ass. Opened it, too, but I was by myself when I did so. Actually, "Whoop-Ass" is an energy drink created by the fine folks at the Jones Soda Co.. Doesn't taste all that great, but I picked it up because of its logo claim that it "revitalizes attitude and restores faith in mankind". Cracked me up.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Picked up an actual book to read on my flight- Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I'm sure many of you are already familiar with this novel, since I've read a lot about it here and there over the last year or so. So far it's very good, but I'm only about a hundred or so pages in. I will say this- Chabon has a great way with a sentence, reminiscent of another of my favorite writers, Mark Helprin.

Hopefully more never know.

Music today: The Minus 5-Down With Wilco (another new purchase), John Cale-Paris 1919, Linda Thompson-Fashionably Late, Godley & Creme-Ismism, and Michael Nesmith-The Prison.
Sports post time:

I should have known, as soon as Tegan bragged on my prediction acumen, that I would have a poor week...but there were some major upsets in the NFL last weekend. I didn't get to watch any of the Sunday games, except for a little bit of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh contest, so I really can't comment on them with any depth. I did watch that Tampa Bay-Indianapolis game last night, though, and that was one of the damnedest games I have ever seen in my life! I still don't believe that Indy, as good as their offense can be, put up 30 points on Tampa's scary D. Tampa Bay had gotten a bit cocky and obnoxious, especially after kicking the cripples, I mean the Falcons around, and I got a little satisfaction from seeing them get such an embarrassing beatdown on national TV.

Anyway, I went 8-6, which makes my overall record 49-24. Could have been worse.

Boy, my World Series predictions sure went to hell and gone, didn't they? Go Cubbies! Go Red Sox!
You may be wondering how I found Nebraska. Well, I drove northeast on Interstate 76 and there it was! But seriously, folks, unless you've ever been out that way it's totally unlike anything you've ever seen, or at least unlike anything I've ever seen.

First and foremost, there's the horizon. Now I realize that the horizon can be seen from almost any outdoor location in the world, and indeed we have a view of that very same horizon from right here in the Bluegrass State. But nothing prepared me for the unobstructed, unblemished, unadulterated, absolutely free and clear view of the horizon I got upon arrival in the Cornhusker State. As far as the eye can see, in every direction, sky. No mountains, trees, houses, anything there to block the view. Well, those things, the houses and trees (and the occasional hill) were there, but they were either close to the road or waaay off in the distance, looking like small blotches on the very rim of the Earth. As someone who lives in a hilly area with lots of trees and houses to break up the skyline, I couldn't get over it. It was quite beautiful, actually, and we saw a couple of gorgeous sunsets and one sunrise.

There were several towns in the area where we were, but most were very small communities, with maybe one or two neglected rundown buildings and a handful of houses. And the ever present grain elevators and water towers. You could always tell when you were approaching a town by the sight of those. All these towns were several miles apart, in a straight line down the highway in each direction. There were a couple of larger towns, like Chappell and Potter, which we visited, but the town where we were lodged, Sidney, was the biggest in the immediate area.

Brief aside: none of the restuarants in Sidney (except for a Taco Bell), nor any of the planes on which we flew, served Mountain Dew. I was fiending like a crazy man for some of that sweet golden caffienated elixir, let me tell you. Fortunately, the aforementioned KFC/Taco Bell and the convienience stores in the area carried it, so my cravings were sated. This could be a problem should I get the job offer and live there. Another trouble spot: the cable TV in our hotel room didn't have Turner Classic Movies. Now, I don't know if that's just not in the package that the hotel subscribes to, or if it's unavailable. It's one thing to expect me to live without Dew, but no TCM either? Aaaagh!

Anyway, back to the town. Understand one thing: in Sidney, Cabela's rules. It is the 200 pound (stuffed) gorilla in Sidney's room. Cabela's has its own water tower (but no grain silo) and zip code. It owns the hotel in which we stayed, and the road on which it is located is Cabela's Drive. I would imagine that if Cabelas ever decided to move its HQ then the town would dry up and blow away. It sits, both headquarters and huge mega store, next to the Interstate on a hillside overlooking the town, which is, like most small towns of its ilk, one long main street with several buildings on each side surrounded by railroad tracks and lots of houses. They have one movie theatre on that main street, which has two screens (a potential problem there as well- I think the closest multi-screen theatre is an hour and a half away...NetFlix here I come). In case you were wondering, Secondhand Lions and Open Range were showing there. Gas is higher there than here, about $1.56 for regular compared to about $1.32 in Bowling Green right now. The people all seemed to be pretty much regular folks, mostly farmers with, I'm sure, a lot of Cabela's employees and employees of other area industries mixed in. We were treated nicely wherever we went.

We just happened to be there for one of their big throwdowns, the annual Sidney Oktoberfest, which took place in a fairgrounds on the outskirts of town, in a big red and white striped circus tent with lots and lots of dust floating around in the air, especially in the evening. If I had seen a dwarfwalking around with a fedora and a cane, I would have seriously freaked, thinking myself in an episode of Carnivale. There was lots of beer and brats, and other good stuff; craft tents, which Mrs. Bacardi loved, and music going on all day- mostly local people performing country songs some pretty badly and some not so badly. The highlight of this was a group which featured several senior citizens backing up this younger (than them, anyway) woman who sang songs by George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. The rhythm guitarist was extremely cool. He was an elderly, weathered-looking gentleman in a mesh baseball cap who belted out this great country song, the name of which escapes me. He was great- I would have paid for an entire set by that guy.. We also caught a set by a group called "The Musky Steers", which featured a pair of gentlemen who couldn't carry a tune in a 18-wheeler. Apparently they used up all their imagination in thinking up that great name. There was also a Scottish bagpipes corps from Denver which performed that evening, and they were excellent. We considered staying for the polka band that was scheduled to play next, but we were both tired from that busy day and all the walking around and the dust, so we went back to the hotel. We made some pictures, so I'll be sure to post a few when we get them developed.

The interview itself took place in Cabela's headquarters located behind the retail store. I got a nutshell tour of their very impressive (and very big) catalog production department, met some of the guys I'd be presumably working with and got a rundown of what they did, met with the HR lady who ran down the benefits, pay structure, relocation system, and so on, then met the department head, went to have lunch with the group supervisor and one of the other retouching guys, which went well (I suppose). The workplace is thankfully casual, and most of the men and women appear to be my age or younger, which is just fine with me. I then got the dreaded "we still have a couple of others to talk to" statement as we parted, so your guess is as good as mine if they're still interested in me. Only time will tell, I guess.

So that, to make a short story long, is the story of my little adventure. I've probably omitted something or another, and if I have I'll be sure to add it later. All in all, I enjoyed my stay in Sidney, which is a nice, rural type town, was very impressed by Cabela's catalog production department, and am very interested in the job itself. As I so often say around here, we shall see what we shall see...
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First things first: BSBdG's today are due Kevin Godley, 58. I am a fan of not only the work Godley did with his former band 10cc, but also his collaborative efforts, both audio and visual, with Lol Creme, another former 10cc member. Of course, the pair split several years ago, with Creme joining the Art of Noise and Godley doing God knows what, since information on the Web (or anywhere else) on the man is difficult to find. Anywho, happy birthday, Mr. Godley.

Also another year older today: John Mellencamp, 52, whose music I like once in a while- especially the Lonesome Jubilee album and his hit from about 6 years ago, "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)", and Radiohead's Thom Yorke, 35.

Monday, October 06, 2003

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At long last...COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of October 1

Another tight chapter in the ever-increasingly bleak saga of Holden Carver, as another of his hopes for "coming in from the cold" goes up in smoke, literally. I dont really have one particular reason for naming this best of the week, other than the fact that it was once again the most solidly written and drawn book I bought. Brubaker and Phillips effectively convey and sustain the mood of desperation that the title character feels, as well as the feeling of a labyrinthian tangle of events slowly but surely building to what will be, I'm sure, a doozy of a finale. A

The bwah-ha-ha is back as the poor man's League gets out of the pickle it was in last issue, in typical ludicrous fashion- which is what the dodgy concept of Roulette and her House deserves. Here's my weekly snarky comment on colorist Lee Loughridge: he actually did a pretty good job this time out, in spite of his jaundiced color palette. A-

The Six (or actually, Five) bust out, and one of them shows his true colors in an effective, and surprising, scene. Hairsine & Miki's Hitch impersonation is better this time out than last, and the Bendis dialogue is typically good. While I wish I knew what had been going on in Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man (This is the Green Goblin?), it doesn't hamper me too much. So far, so good. A-

In which we find Christian Walker in a Thirties milieu, with an Einstein cameo no less, and we wind up with a gory finale. From the very beginning, one of the biggest questions I had was exactly what Walker's problem was with his lost abilities, and we're slowly but surely getting an answer on that score...and I'm hoping it will tie in with the "present" of the book in smashing fashion- and I think it will because, y'know, that Bendis fella is a pretty good writer...and that Oeming guy is a damn fine artist. A-

Again, a pretty good script (which would have made a snazzy Nickelodeon special, but then again I probably wouldn't have watched it there) and outstanding art by Christine Norrie and Jason Bone, nestled snugly inside another kick ass Darwyn Cooke cover. Yes, I'm buying this for the art. So what? One bad omen, though- I see where someone with the last name "Krall", and I'm assuming this isn't the jazz singer, is listed in the credits for next issue and Bone's name is nowhere to be found. B+

Courtroom drama (with a dash of The Sopranos) this time in the Astro City world, involving a nerdy lawyer (who may be more than he seems) who comes up with an unprecidented defense for his obviously guilty client, and runs afoul of the Mob in the process. Involving, if somewhat secondhand. B+

What started out so promisingly devolved into a convoluted mess, which at least manages to get a somewhat satisfying resolution here. Perhaps writer Dan Slott got a little ambitious and bit off a bit more than he could chew, perhaps there was editorial interference and changes which always results in disorder, perhaps he's got a lot to learn about comics writing... who can say? Anyway, the upshot is that he took the most compelling character and made him into yet another Arkham freak, which will only be seen whenever we have those ever-present Arkham mass jailbreak scenes in future issues of Bat-family books...and at the beginning it seemed like he had more possibilities than that. I really don't understand why he didn't bleed like a stuck pig after his treatment at the hands of Jane Doe, either. Perhaps that blame, and some of the blame for the incoherence as well, can be laid at the feet of Ryan Sook and his inkers. Sook is a solid illustrator, but the artists' job is often to help make the vague and indistinct clearer and he failed miserably on this count. The Demon cameo in this ish was OK, even though he didn't do very much...I think it's time to declare a retcon on the Alan Moore-created "rhyming demon" shtick- it's rare when a writer, any writer, not just Slott, doesn't fall into the trap of crafting lazy, off-meter, contrived prose for Etrigan to spout. You folks can do what you like, but if you've been thinking about picking this up when it's collected, remember I said don't bother. This issue: C+. Entire series: C.

And, one from days gone by:

TEEN TITANS (1968) 17
Well, I wish I could tell you that this was a groove, man...but it really wasn't. It's a very episodic tale of the Mad Mod (his second appearance, and the last for a long time, "Mod" having already become passe by 1968), who has his evil eyes set on stealing the Queen's jeweled sceptre, which he does at a command performance to which the Titans have been invited. He steals the sceptre right under everyone's noses at the very beginning, in the most clever scene in the book, and the Titans pursue. Unbeknownst to the foursome, the Mod had rigged their costumes to inhibit their powers (don't you just love that DC science back then?)...and gets an unexpected boost when Robin gets himself locked in a dungeon in the Tower of London and misses the proceedings entirely! The Mod, helpfully (and stupidly) gives the Titans a clue to where the sceptre is hidden every time they manage to find it, and after the requisite underwater scene (for Aqualad, of course, but at least it features the Loch Ness monster...) they catch him for good in his boutique, "The Ungrotty Grotto". The Batman TV-show inspired, contrived, full-of-lame "with it" dialogue-laden script by the redoubtable Bob Haney (who wrote about a hundred million issues of Brave & Bold, which I collected for a very long time) may have been kinda fun in '68 but is very quaint by modern standards. Nick Cardy's art is mostly very good (especially in the opening scenes), if a little rushed-looking, but one gets the idea he was just on the cusp of busting loose with more inspired stuff soon- and in fact two issues later he delivered the excellent Christmas Carol-inspired Titans Christmas story, as well as some of his best Aquaman stuff and of course, Bat Lash. They just don't make 'em like this anymore, thank goodness. C+
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Sendin' out BSBdG's today to guitarist/songwriter David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, 49, and pop/rock tunesmith Matthew Sweet, 39. Favorite Sweet album: still 1991's Girlfriend. Almost as good: 1999's In Reverse.

Also celebrating a birthday today: the Replacements' Tommy Stinson. What the hell is he doing in Guns 'n' Roses?

Over my time away, I missed a few that I would have ordinarily featured, like Lindsey Buckingham and Neve Campbell...but there's always next year, right?
Well hello, everybody!

I'm back from my trip, none the worse for wear. No job offer, but from what I'm told I wasn't going to get one then anyway, this was just a "getting acquainted" kind of interview. A costly one, for them, but that's part of the price of having your headquarters in Nebraska.

Anyway, I've got a stack of mail to go through, phone calls to make, resumes to fax and a stack of papers to read, plus other stuff that's gone neglected over the last four days so hopefully I'll get time later today to post some stuff.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

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Well, that's gonna be all for me today, most likely, and all from me for the next four days as well. I've got a ton of things to do this afternoon in preparation for my trip. I'm flying out from Louisville at 11 AM EST tomorrow, and am expected to arrive in Denver at 2:30, where I will drive northeast to Sidney, shown above inside the red circle on the map. I should be back sometime Sunday evening, but I doubt I'll get the chance to write much, if anything, so sayonara from me for now and wish me luck, OK?

I'll try to get comics reviews up sometime Monday, in case anybody's worried about it...
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Boris Karloff is TCM's October Star of the Month, which means lotsa cool flicks on that channel all October long, most notably The Black Cat, one of my fave films and the one from whence the above picture comes, on the 28th; The Body Snatcher, which I haven't seen in a while, also on the 28th; and all three of his Frankenstein films. Notice that Bela Lugosi is in three of these...

They're also showing Hammer horror films every Sunday, which probably won't tear me away from any football games but you never know...
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This typically fab, gear and boss Nick Cardy cover graced the September/October 1968 issue of Teen Titans, number 17 to be precise and the second appearance of The Mad Mod, a character I've suddenly become infatuated with, even to the point of checking eBay to see if this issue and his first appearance in #7 are listed for sale. Mile High has a fair condition copy of #17 for about $12.50. Of course, I can't afford them right now but I thought I'd post the cover anyway.

And I'd want them only if Cardy drew them, of course. He didn't draw several issues after #7, I know that- Irv Novick, perhaps with Cardy inks did the honors. I saw one panel of #17 on the Titans Tower website, and it was definitely by Cardy, so I'm pretty sure he did that one.

There's just something about those 60s DC comics for me, I don't know exactly what it is. Nostalgia for my long-gone childhood, perhaps, or just the desire to review a lot of stuff I either overlooked or didn't own as a kid. I realize that a lot of what National issued back then was hackneyed, staid, somewhat high on the dairy product scale and nowhere near as vital as Marvels from about that same period, but they were incredibly imaginative, if nothing else.

And I still want to see that Milligan/Bond or Morrison/Hewlett Super-Hip meets the Mad Mod one shot.

Quickie update: I just bought a copy of this at my comics shop, which had a pretty good condition copy for eight bucks! Haven't really had a chance to read it yet, but just from thumbing through it I can see that the Mod was a pretty nasty character in this one...and yes, Cardy did the art.
Although I'm a bit apprehensive about what this means for future depictions of Captain America in the movies or TV, it's great to see that Joe Simon, co-creator of Cap as well as Round Robin, The Green Team, and Brother Power the Geek, got some recompense from Marvelcorp.

Dirk Deppey weighs in on this, and I agree with him about Cap's visual image and how it wil affect any potential movie, and Mark Evanier has some wise words as well.

As far as I'm concerned, Simon just wanted what was coming to him, and wanted to avoid being Seigel and Shusterized. Good on him. And hey- I always kinda liked the Green Team and Brother Power.
Random bits of musicality:

I have had two songs running around in my head for days now, and they won't go away: "Why Can't I" by Liz Phair, and, of all things, "Picasso's Last Words" by Paul McCartney.

I read where Joe Henry has a new album out right now, called Tiny Voices. I loved Henry's alt-countryish stuff, especially his magnificent Trampoline...but that was the culmination of that phase, apparently because his muse has pushed him farther and farther down the avant-jazz road ever since, and as far as I'm concerned it's been a dead end. Apparently with Voices, though, his muse has pushed him over a cliff, or perhaps straight up his own ass. Go here to read the hilariously overwrought AMG review.

Woke up rather early this morning, and had VH1 on for a while where I saw the new White Stripes video for their song "The Hardest Button to Button". Clever clip, which goes perfectly with the music. I've also caught the video for OutKast's "Hey Ya", and while I don't like it quite as much as Big Sunny D does, it's pretty catchy in a Prince meets Parliament kinda way. It kinda goes on too long, though. I still would like to hear the entire album before I pass final judgement.

Even though I had VH1 on earlier, I've been listing to the stereo for the last hour and a half. Music today has included, so far, Randy California-Kapt. Kopter and his Fabulous Twirly Birds, David Bowie's Young Americans, and John Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll.

You know, it's just occurred to me that I've never posted for posterity my 25 favorite albums, comics series, or movies. Maybe I shall do that soon. I must ponder this...
I really hate to make my predictions this early, but like I said before, I don't think I'll be around a computer until here they are:

Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Kansas City over Denver (The Habitual Liars, I mean the Broncos, are tough but KC is really hot right now and they're at home)
NY Giants over Miami (This should be a great game, and once again I'm taking the home team)
Seattle over Green Bay (The Pack is coming off a Monday night game, and I don't think their defense can handle the potent Seattle offense. Ahman Green will get his, though. This looks to be a shootout, but I see Holmgren coming back to pour some salt in some old wounds)
Minnesota over Atlanta (Another long day for my stumbling Birds)
Carolina over New Orleans (Wow. Carolina will be 4-0. I can't see how the bumbling Saints will move the ball on the Panthers)
Buffalo over Cincinnati (If I keep picking the Bills, they're bound to win again sooner or later, right? Without Dillon, the Bengals will struggle against a Buffalo team that isn't as good as it looked early but isn't as bad as they've looked the last two weeks)
Oakland over Chicago (The Bears, on the other hand, are as bad as they've looked, and Oakland has had two cakelike games in a row. Al Davis owes the schedule makers)
Dallas over Arizona (Poor Emmitt. He will not have a happy homecoming. It will not make me especially happy to see Dallas at 3-1)
Tennessee over New England (Another potential shootout- and I like McNair better than Brady in one of those)
Jacksonville over San Diego (The Jags will be pissed after their last second loss last week, and they'll take it out on the hapless 'Bolts)
Philadelphia over Washington (I think Philly figured out a few things over the last couple of weeks, and will take it to the Skinnies)
San Fransisco over Detroit (I'd love to see the Lions pull this out, but I think the Niners' pride is smarting and Detroit's just what the doctor ordered. If this wasn't a home game for San Fran, though, I might think differently)
Pittsburgh over Cleveland (The Browns' scoring woes will continue, especially if gimpy Holcomb returns)
Tampa Bay over Indianapolis (Hey- this is my Super Bowl pick! In true irresistible force/immovable object tradition, I think the Bucs' defense will be better than Indy's vastly improved one, and Tony Dungy will get no satisfaction)

I reserve the right, since these predictions are so early, to make last-minute changes if I get a chance.

And one last sports-related note: This just in- Rush Limbaugh is an idiot. I guess that's just stating the obvious, and most even remotely intelligent people have known it for a long time. Apparently ESPN doesn't care- this is what he's supposed to do, I suppose- be controversial and spout off with any old crap, as long as he gets attention. This is exactly the kind of buffoonery I expected when they brought him aboard.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Another forthright and funny Jess Lemon review over at Pulse, this time of the recent DC Sandman manga by Jill Thompson, which my comics shop under-ordered so I didn't get one...not that I could afford it anyway right now.

Some speculate that Jess is really one of the Pulse staff like Heidi MacDonald or Jen Contino; some assert that she is really what they say she is, an intern who only has a passing familiarity with comics. Whoever or whatever "she" is, she writes perceptive stuff that makes you smack your forehead in a "why didn't I see that" type way.

I know that it's been up for a few days now, but I'm only just now getting around to reading it. Gimme a break, OK?
Glancing at the new Diamond Shipping List for this week, here's what I'll probably take with me to read on the plane:


Looks like a solid week.
Time now for the weekly sports post.

Had a darn good week prediction-wise, going 11-3, which makes my overall record so far after four weeks 41-18! Wish I had some money, I'd find a bookie somewhere...

My Falcons are dead in the water right now, becalmed, so to speak. They can't stop anybody, nor can they score on anyone. What they need is a dose of confidence, or some size and speed on defense...and it doesn't look like either is coming anytime soon.

Houston Texans coach Dom Capers has balls as big as church bells for going for the TD to win with four seconds left on fourth down. I don't see how the man walks around or sits down with stones that large. I was on the edge of my seat after they failed to punch it in on third down; I thought "You gotta kick the figgie!" But hey, sometimes (especially with teams like Houston) you gotta just say what the hell and go for it, and they did. It would have been second guessed for the rest of the year if they hadn't made it, but they did and so far it's been one of the most memorable plays of the young season.

Congrats, Theresa, your Iggles broke out of their funk. They looked fired up and ready to go from the beginning, and looked more like the team everybody thought they'd be at the onset of the season.

In baseball news, my White Sox finally canned manager Jerry Manuel, aka the Somnambulist. Good riddance. They won in the beginning with him, but they've underacheived for far too long under his low key approach. The White Sox-less playoffs start today, and I suppose I'll make a prediction. Let's see...usually the teams I like the least make it to the Series (Anaheim being a notable exception last year), so while I'd love to see a Cubs-Red Sox Series I know it's gonna be the Twins and the Giants, which the Giants win in seven games.

By the way, there's also a new Tuesday Morning Quarterback up.

That concludes the weekly sports post. This weekend's NFL predictions will probably be made tomorrow, 'cause I don't know if I'll be around a computer this weekend!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Hi, everyone...haven't had much time to sit in front of the butterfly curtains today, hence my lack of content. I went on a job interview this morning at a print shop in the community of Morgantown, about 60 miles away. They had advertised for a typesetter/graphic artist for the last month or so, and I thought what the heck, why not. That is what I do. Now when I was a kid, I accompanied my father (who was a wholesale grocery supplier's sales rep) on his Monday route, which took him to Morgantown, and had been there a few times as an (alleged) adult...but I had forgotten how far away it was, and how long it took to get there. So, I set out one day a few weeks ago, to put in an application and refresh my memory. And let me tell you, that is one long-ass drive, through Mammoth Cave National Park in part and mostly on hilly, twisty roads...and by the time I got there I knew I didn't want that job, but I thought since I had driven all that way I might as well apply. So I did, not dreaming they'd call me back. But they did. So this morning I drove back over there, jumped through a few hoops (typing test, built a flyer, proofreading test) then talked to the boss who told me that he appreciated me coming out, but he thought I was probably too overqualified and would want more money than they were prepared to spend. And he was right on both counts, which begs the question: Why the hell did they call me in, wasting my time and my gas, in the first place? Oh well.

I also have had to do a few things around the house, in preparation for the upcoming trip to Sidney, that has left little time to write. But I decided to sit down and make some time.

I didn't watch any movies this weekend, but I have started watching Angel reruns on the area WB network. They showed the first one last night, and I was surprised at how much had changed since then. It didn't seem to have the same feel as the show does now, either, but they were watchable.

I also caught the new Teen Titans episode, in which they bring back, much to my surprise (I hadn't read anything about upcoming episodes) The Mad Mod! And they revived him in very clever fashion (no pun intended)- looking for all the world like he was designed by Jamie Hewlett with Austin Powers in mind, and having him voiced by my old droogie Malcolm (Alex) McDowell, a very clever stroke. And the animation itself was a tour de force of psychedelic effects combined with the usual anime action, making for a fun watch. I saw all kinds of homages to 60s films and TV like Yellow Submarine and the Avengers TV show, and even British comics like Paradax (the little missles with the checkerboards on them). I always kinda liked the Mad Mod character from way back in Teen Titans 17, and was tickled by this forward-thinking look back. You know, I'd pay good money for a prestige format Super-Hip vs. the Mad Mod one shot! Drawn by Hewlett or Philip Bond, and written by, oh, maybe Grant Morrison or Pete Milligan...

Dead Like Me had its season finale over the weekend as well, and it was excellent. As we've gotten to know each of the characters, the annoying little things that had bugged me when the series started have been smoothed out, and this has been my favorite show of the last few months. Don't know how the ratings were, but I sincerely hope it returns for (at least) another season.

I also caught most of an Elvis Costello "By Request" concert on A&E, where he played songs that people would phone or email in. He was in great form, and rocked real hard on the old stuff like "Radio Radio" that he could play in his sleep, I'm sure. I was less tolerant of the godawful Paul McCartney in Russia concert they aired, which was as much documentary as it was concert show and made the outrageous claim that the Beatles helped bring about the fall of Communism! It was just too much after a while, so I bailed and still haven't finished watching it.

I couldn't get into the new PBS series The Blues, either, and not just because I've always found the blues (certainly a seminal art form, no doubt, and I recognize that) a bit limited and boring. I might try to watch some of the other entries in the series, especially Wim Wenders' outing tonight...if the football game is as dull as I expect. I'm terrible, I know. Other than football, that's about all the quality time I've spent with my TV lately.

A couple of things worth noting in the Comics blogisphereiverse...Sean T. Collins has written a hilarious evisceration of the recently concluded Batman opus, "Hush". I managed to avoid that one, since I saw from the previews that it looked like it was gonna stink on ice- especially judging by the circa 1991 stylings of the overrated Jim Lee. I will state for the record, though, that I liked the run of Batman Halloween specials Jeph Loeb did with Tim Sale (less so Long Halloween and the muddled Dark Victory), as well as his more recent Daredevil: Yellow. Spider-Man: Blue, though, was such a crashing bore that I decided not to even pick up the upcoming Hulk book, next in the series. Maybe if they do Giant-Man: Helmeted, I might. But seriously, my favorite Jeph Loeb work remains his clever Challengers of the Unknown limited series he did for DC with Sale back in (I think it was) 1994. It was a refreshingly mature and slightly cynical look at the Challs, and was good enough to overcome the hackneyed Standard Issue Demon Menace at the end.

Also, over at Forager's, there is an interesting post and discussion of Neal Adams, Dave Gibbons, and Dave Fiore's review of Geoff Klock's How to Read Super-Hero Comics and Why. I haven't read the book in question, but I totally disagreed with his opinion of Adams vs. Gibbons and the "reality" trend over the last few decades in comics, and I popped off in the comments column. I need to get back over there and make another point which occurred to me this morning, but it will have to wait till later. You go read, and read Dave's review as well.

That's all I got for now. I have dishes to wash. Sigh.
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Today's Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings go out the the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, 68 today. He's one of the greats, right up there with Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and others.

Other notables another year older today include Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, 55, and Emily Lloyd, 33. I always thought Lloyd was a cutie, and enjoyed seeing her in movies...but after her co-starring turn in 1989's Bruce Willis flick In Country, her career tanked and she hasn't been in anything of note in years. Don't know why.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

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Well, since today is Sunday I think it's appropriate that BSBdG's should go out to the heavenly Mira Sorvino, 36 today. She's a better actress, methinks, than common wisdom would have you believe.

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Also, today is the birthday of Janeane Garafalo, 39. Janeane has made a career out of playing cynical, nerdy girls who think themselves unattractive, when in reality she's always looked very fetching in just about every film I've ever seen her in. That's kinda annoying, but I like her anyway.

Lots of other birthdays today, like Moon Zappa, Brigitte Bardot, Al Capp, and Ed Sullivan.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

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No, I haven't been drinking and blogging. Hey- if Warren Ellis can post self-photography on his page, then why can't I? My son left his camera here, and the urge to play around was just too strong.

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Also, a rare glimpse into the nerve center of the JB Show. Yes, captured there for posterity is the ol' indigo iMac on which I compose the majority of these deathless missives. Also, at right are some swellio Kim Possible toys I got from McDonalds the other day, along with a bunch of other crap on the sideboard next to my desk.

Access Hollywood, eat your heart out.
Time once again for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Teams I see winning this weekend, and why:
Houston over Jacksonville (I think they're better than getting beat by a rookie, even a rookie as good as Byron Leftwich seems to be)
Minnesota over San Francisco (Culpepper will play, I hear, plus they're at home. Besides, the sounds of wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the Niner Nation are sweet music to my ears)
St. Louis over Arizona(I don't think 'Zona's so tough when the temp's under 100)
Washington over New England(This should be a good game, and I'm only picking the Skinnies because of the home field)
Pittsburgh over Tennessee (this should be a war- but I'm taking the Steelers at home)
Kansas City over Baltimore (another war- but KC seems to be on a roll)
Buffalo over Philadelphia (sorry, Theresa, but until Philly looks like they've gotten their act together I gotta go with the Bills. Plus the Eagles are still missing half their defensive backfield, and Bledsoe's licking his chops)
Carolina over Atlanta (the Panthers' D is too good for my Falcons to solve, especially on the I have a sinking feeling that Stephen Davis will have a monster day against Atlanta's soft defense)
Cleveland over Cincinnati (another road game plus a Browns team coming off a big win spells "wait another week" for the underacheiving Bungles. This will be close, though)
Oakland over San Diego (the only team in bigger disarray than the Raiders right now is the Chargers. Well, OK, there's the Eagles, too. But I think Oakland has enough to put the Bolts away at home)
Denver over Detroit (No way the Lions have enough to win at Mile High, or Invesco, or whatever they call it)
Dallas over the NY Jets (Parcells has his Cowboys playing well enough to beat the increasingly deranged-sounding Herman Edwards' Jets, who pretty much suck on both sides of the ball)
Indianapolis over New Orleans (I think defense will make the difference in this one; even without Edgerrin James, I like Manning and co's ability to score on NO more than vice versa)
Green Bay over Chicago (If the Pack loses this game, the Favre should just retire immediately afterwards)

Last week: 10-4. Overall: 30-15. So far so good.

Friday, September 26, 2003

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Because I care...COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 24

Well, all right, we pretty much know from the beginning that most of the characters won't survive, which reduces the tension. Also, the Craig Hamilton/P.Craig Russell art is bright and cartoonish, and doesn't always convey the grimness of the events depicted. And I don't care. In this case, it's not the tale, it's the telling, and Willingham, Hamilton and Russell are completely in synch, giving us a rousing, entertaining, and often tragic tale using legendary characters both familiar and unfamiliar. It's epic in scope, larger than life, and (at least for me) brought back a lot of the thrill I got from reading old fairy tales and seeing movies like Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood as a kid. Russell, especially, excels at this sort of fine-line reality vs. fantasy stuff, and his inks really add a lot to Hamilton's strong layouts. Willingham, in the Fables ongoing, has been hinting at these events at a long time, and I was especially interested in the revelations about his Boy Blue character- it's his doomed romance with Little Red Riding Hood that is the core of the story. And while he hasn't cleared up every question here (I still find myself wondering how any of these characters stayed dead, when he established that they are sustained by the interest of the mundane world), he's given us some more puzzle pieces to use in the future. For once, a $5.95 comic that's worth the money. A

In which we inch closer to the end of the world as Alan Moore's ABC characters know it, and nobody feels fine. Sophie Bangs aka Promethea is hiding from the FBI and her destiny in Tom Strong's millennium City, and when the Bureau enlists his aid in finding her, he succeeds, with unintended consequences. When this book started years ago, I never dreamed it would be resolved like this, and it still feels a bit rushed, like he decided to go from point B to point Q. And, possibly, Moore wouldn't have seen fit to take it in this direction had he not planned to take a break from comics writing (nobody really thinks he's gone for good, do they?) thing for sure, he's going out on a high note. I've always thought Promethea was the best of his ABC titles, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen notwithstanding, and this issue is even deeper and more resonant than the previous as he builds the feeling of impending dread and wonder (both at the same time)...aided by the stalwart J.H. Williams/Mick Gray team, who get to do not only their established style but also those of Chris Sprouse, and on the clever cover Ross Andru/Dick Giordano. Williams' sense of design and layout is excellent, as always, and Lee Loughridge would do well to sit and talk shop with colorist Jeromy Cox. If not for the Fables one shot, this would have been the best of the week by far. A

JLA 87
Joe Kelly's on a roll, and this story arc is sharp, gripping and intense, with the League trying to cope with one of their own, who's been possessed by a world-destroying force and is quite content to be so. Kelly even revisits Plastic Man, who in Kelly's hands was quite interesting previously...but with a twist, no pun intended. Unless Joe K totally botches the ending, this will go down as the best JLA arc since early in Morrison's tenure, and to be honest, I'm digging this arc as much as I did any back then. And at the risk of being redundant (since I think I say this every time I review an issue of JLA that they're involved in) it is my considered belief that Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen, as a team, are at this time the best mainstream superhero comic illustrators out there, bar none. A

Whoa! What's this doing up this high on the list!? Well, I'll tell ya. I'm always quick to tear into Terry Moore when I see his annoying storytelling idiosyncrasies, which always make me grind my teeth, but there's a reason why I endure the poems and the far-fetched characters and the pretensions- the relationship between his principals, Francine Peters and Katrina "Katchoo" Choovanski and their friends and families. And in this issue, we get lots of that, well written and nicely illustrated, and precious little else...and I like it. In this issue, we finally see Francine's marriage, which we longtime readers remember caused them to be separated for several years, bringing us full circle to the first pages of V2 #1. I can't say I would recommend this issue to first-timers, but for us long-suffering regular readers it's more than welcome. A-

You see, back in the late 80s or early 90s, I forget which, there was this fellow named Steve Lightle who used to draw the Legion of Super-Heroes comic on a regular basis. Fans liked his stuff a lot, as I recall. Myself, I thought his work was fine but I didn't read the LSH then nor did I care to begin. Then, he moved to another book or something and as is par for this title over the years, more changes got made, then Zero Hour came along and the Legion got completely retconned with new creative teams, and Lightle did less and less work for DC, and time went on...but longtime hardcore Legion fans didn't. Many of them hated the artists that subsequently illustrated the adventures of the 30th Century supergroup, and many publicly cried out for the return of Lightle, who didn't seem to be doing anything else to speak of, in comics anyway. So now, those LSH fans have gotten their wish- Lightle has illustrated this, a somewhat routine fill-in issue featuring the crankiest Legionnaire, Umbra, who returns to her homeworld to find out why her powers were malfunctioning. And you know what? He's not bad. Not bad at all. Many artists, when returning to the scene of prior glories, often serve to reinforce that old axiom about not being able to go home again...but not Lightle. If anything, he's gotten better! And while I like the current regulars, as far as I'm concerned Steve Lightle is welcome to draw the Legion any old time he wants to, improbable costume on Umbra notwithstanding. A-

Big treat for those of us who were fans of the Robinson/Harris/Snejbjerg Starman book, as Selina and Holly stop off in Opal City on their road trip, and we get to catch up with the O'Dares and Bobo Benetti. Ed Brubaker puts a nice outsider's spin on the Opal, and we also get layouts by Nevermen and Sandman Mystery Theatre artist Guy Davis, which don't always rest comfortably under Cam Stewart's finishes, but it's fine nonetheless. Loughridge colored this, need I say more? The countdown continues- two more issues until Stewart is gone, along with your humble scribe. B+

Normally reliable scribe Mike Carey kinda comes up short on the finale of this two-parter, which sets up an effective mood but devolves into incoherence before it's done. Maybe some of the blame is due to fill-in artist Doug Alexander Gregory, who looks capable enough with his Mark Badgerisms, but kinda gets derailed here. Better days ahead, I'm sure. B
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Also lest I forget (and thanks to Sugar 'n Spicy for reminding me), today would have been the 134th birthday of the great Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland.

The Potion Maker
Johnny Bacardinium is an opaque, thin beige liquid drawn from the leaves of a stunted oak.
Mix with Johnny Bacardi! Username:
Yet another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern

Found this over at Stupid Evil Bastard's place. When I'm mixed with his, this is what you get:

The Potion Maker
Lesium is an opaque, oily magenta liquid distilled from the flesh of a wolfsbane plant.
Johnny Bacardinium is an opaque, thin beige liquid drawn from the leaves of a stunted oak.
Mixing Lesium with Johnny Bacardinium causes a violent chemical reaction, producing an opaque lavender potion which gives the user protection from fire.
Yet another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern

Whee! Fun. And yes, I'm writing comics reviews, to be posted later today.

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BSBdG's today to Bryan Ferry, 58. We did the Roxy Music thing a month or so ago, so I won't go there...but I'll say that while I haven't been all that thrilled by the music he's made either on his own or with Roxy in the last 15 years, I certainly loved a lot of it he made in the 13 years prior and let it go at that. And the guy still looks classy.

Also, Olivia Newton-John, 55. Songs I like a lot: "A Little More Love". "Hopelessly Devoted To You". "Magic", and "Xanadu" with the ELO. Kinda liked "Physical". Movies I liked: Grease, and I kinda liked Xanadu in spite of myself.

Click on the pics above to go to websites.
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Sad to read, just now, about the death of Robert Palmer at age 54.

While I was never a huge fan, I did like a lot of his music. I found a lot of it clever and inventive and admired his willingness to experiment with different sounds, while retaining the island music flavor he apparently preferred. Most people associate him, and rightly so, with the ever-present 80s hits "Addicted To Love" (from his biggest selling album, Riptide) and "Simply Irresistible", his dapper, disaffected, somewhat Bryan Ferry-ish image, and his alliance with the Double Duran guys in the Power Station. I myself have always loved his top 40 song "Every Kinda People", a Marvin Gayeish reggae song with a gorgeous melody, and am a fan of his underrated, in my opinion, 1983 album Pride, which melded techno sounds to reggae and never failed to be clever and interesting.

Who's next, I's been a bad last few months for musicians!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I fully intended to write my comics reviews today, since I managed to get my new purchases read yesterday evening, but the day has gotten away from me. I might try to get them posted tonight, but most likely it will be tomorrow. In case you were waiting or something. I'll tell you this- I was most impressed with the Fables one shot. It was a really good read.

I've been listening to the digital music our cable TV company provides today, and have heard some interesting stuff, most notably a cut from Neil Young's newest effort, Greendale, which sounds like something from his Harvest period...honest! Sounds like Neil's done gone and writ himself a concept album of some sort- for some reason I'm reminded of Sinatra's 1969 Watertown. Right now I'm hearing a song by someone named Josh Ritter; it's called "Rainslicker" and it sounds very jazzy, folky and atmospheric. I like it, but that's just another CD I can't afford to buy right now. I need a job.

Speaking of which, this time next week, I'll be flying to Denver, CO, on my way to Nebraska and hopefully a job and a potential new life. Kinda scary if you think about it. I don't even own a pair of bib overalls! Just kidding, Nebraska readers!

Guess that's all I've got for right now. Hopefully, I'll have mo' better later.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

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I've been reading here and there about the upcoming rerelease of Let It Be, this time supposedly more stripped-down and in line with what the Fabs intended, as opposed to the Phil Spector-produced (and some say over-produced) "official" version which saw release in 1970.

Now, I've always kinda liked the Spectorized version of Let it Be, even though, to be honest, I don't really think he improved any of the songs that I've heard as originals on the Anthology CDs, and I've had 33 years to assimilate that album. Paul always gets his knickers in a twist over Spector's "Long and Winding Road" job, but let's face it- after hearing no less than four different versions of that tune, on not only the Anthology but several of McCartney's own solo albums, nobody could help that plodding, sappy ditty. I don't think Spector helped or hurt the title track, and I actually prefer his "Across The Universe" to the more singsongy and thin-sounding original version that appeared on the World Wildlife Fund album in '68. Lennon always defended Phil's production job, partially, I suppose because Phil did it at his insistence but also because, I believe, John was interested in maintaining the creative collaboration he had going with Spector, so of course it was in his best interests to butter him up. Anyway, ironic that this is coming out now, since John's not around to oppose it. In fact, one gets the definite sense of Paul once again trying to apply a little revisionist history here, despite the fact that the other survivors, George before his death, approved this reissue.

Ah, well. I want to hear it, whatever the motivation. I'll definitely miss "Maggie Mae" and "Dig It", tracks on the original which are being left off, but that's not a major loss. I always liked the extended version of "Dig It" that John sings in the film, which I've actually seen only once. I'm hoping that a reissued DVD of the movie will soon be forthcoming, as well.

Photo by Linda McCartney, by the way...
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Today's BSBdG's go out posthumously to Linda Eastman McCartney, who would have been 62 today. It's debatable as to whether or not she should have had as prominent a position in Sir Paul's musical endeavors in the 70s and 80s as she did; myself, I think she was always a well-meaning amateur but her often off-key vocals added a haunting quality to the BVs in Paul's songs, and I liked that very much. I'll always recall with amusement seeing McCartney perform in 1990, with Linda, along with Paul (Wix) Wickens, on keyboards, and noting (along with everyone sitting around me) that she wasn't pressing down on the keys! And she was set up directly in front of us, so there was no mistaking. Apparently Wix was handling most of the keyboard duties, leaving Linda to ooh and aah and shake her tambourine, and mime playing the keybs.

But-Linda was a hell of a photographer. I went to see the traveling exhibition that made the rounds a few years ago, and was blown away. She took some of my favorite photos of the Fabs, most notably the session at John's Twickenham estate just before their breakup. You can go here to see the majority of what was featured at the exhibition.

She was also a tireless advocate of vegetarianism and animal rights, and Paul sure seemed to love the hell out of her, and she was the subject of a lot of great (and some not-so-great) happy birthday, Linda McCartney, wherever you are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

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I've also watched a gaggle of movies over the last week or two, and this be them:

1967's Clambake, a film which certainly contributed to Elvis' growing dissatisfaction with his movie career and onscreen image; indeed, it was less than a year later that he filmed the legendary 1968 Comeback Special on TV. Taken on its own merits, though, this film actually was kinda watchable, if a bit formulaic. Elvis is placed in another "Prince and the Pauper" type situation as he plays a rich oil heir/chemist who wants to find out if people could like him for who he is, rather than for his money. He trades places with a goofy ski instructor at a Florida hotel, and finds himself in a rivalry with Bill Bixby (wearing hair that looks like it was spray-painted with copper colored lacquer), a playboy boat racer, for the hand of sweet, demure Elvis movie regular Shelley Fabares. Much hilarity and several Elvis songs, some not bad, and some that will leave you slack-jawed in disbelief (there's an Oklahoma-inspired bit with some kids on a playground that has to be seen to be believed), ensues until the climactic boat race at the end, where the truth finally comes out and Elvis gets the girl. This flick looks more 1965 than 1967, and it's often pretty cheesy, but I found it an enjoyable way to kill an hour and a half.

John Woo's 2002 film Windtalkers is well made, and certainly conveys the intense horror of war effectively, but the problem is that what was supposed to be a drama about the secret code used in Word War II (actually the Navajo language) and the Native Americans who were responsible for using it to relay messages on the battlefield becomes the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan rewritten as an action vehicle for Nicolas Cage, who is good but should not have been the main focus of this movie. Christian Slater, of all people, has a pretty good-sized role as well...ah me. I remember when he was top-billed.

Another 2002 film, Pumpkin stars Christina Ricci as a perky sorority girl who falls in love with one of the contestants in a Special Olympics, a wheelchair-bound shot-putter named "Pumpkin" Romanoff. Of course, this causes no end of complications in their lives. Pumpkin is not a dreary drama, thank God, but one of those Farrelly Brothers-type satires that goes by the throw-enough-at-the-wall-and-some-is-bound-to-stick principle, and unfortunately not enough does. It's so inconsistent in its tone and intent that I got real impatient with it, and it has a copout ending to boot. Ricci is good, as usual, but little else here is. There is some interesting use of soundtrack music here and there, though.

I do, however, recommend (very highly) the 2001 William Macy film Panic. Panic is the story of Macy's character, Alex, who has been raised by his domineering bastard of a father to follow in his footsteps as a hit man. As an adult, he has a family who has no idea what he does for a living, and lives a normal life as a upstanding member of the community. Problem is, he's havig a midlife crisis, and he wants to quit, but he can't stand up to his father. He decides to start seeing a therapist, nicely underplayed by the late John Ritter...but when his father hears that he's doing this (and has confided his real occupation to his doctor), he orders Alex to kill his shrink. To complicate things further, Alex falls in lust with a young girl he meets in the therapist's office, played by Neve Campbell. He begins to desperately try to see her, even to the point of stalking. Macy is outstanding in the type of role he specializes in, an average Joe type who is struggling to keep everything around him in line but clueless about how to go about doing so...he's able to create sympathy for what is a pretty unlikeable character. Donald Sutherland is outstanding in the role of the heavy, as is Tracy Ullman, of all people, as Alex's uncomprehending wife. Heck, everybody's good, and this is a first rate of those kinda movies that you hope you'll catch when you're awake at 4 AM watching TV.

And then, on the other hand, sometimes you run across a film like the dumb-ass Formula 51, a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels wannabe that doesn't come close to the Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino model it aspires to. Basically, it's about a drug, developed by Samuel L. Jackson's character out of legal ingredients and supposed to be 51 more times powerful than any other, that he takes to England, doublecrossing Meat Loaf(!)'s American crime boss in the process. Meat hires an assassin to off Sam and get back the formula. Chaos ensues as Jackson tries to sell his drug to the nutball crime lord, accompanied by a small-time hood who works for him. It's got Samuel L. Jackson, always a plus, but he is saddled with a dumb, mostly incoherent script that asks him to go around in a kilt (which he wears with style), states at the end that no one ever found out why he wears one, and then shows us why in the very next scene! I also thought Emily Mortimer was pretty easy on the eyes as the assassin, even though her role didn't amount to much. Formula 51 is worth watching once, I suppose, but check your brain at the door.

And that be it for movies from me lately!
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Well, Bill Sherman's already beat me to it, and has summarized it quite nicely-so go there first before reading any further- but I wanted to post some thoughts about HBO's new original series Carnivále anyway.

It's an densely plotted, challenging show, and most of the characters are ambiguous as far as their inclination towards good vs. evil. There's dust everywhere, blowing and making everything all gauzy and causing me to sneeze. Carnivále reminds me of David Lynch remaking Something Wicked This Way Comes, or maybe if Bradbury rewrote that book as a sequel to The Grapes of Wrath. But to its credit, it doesn't lay all its plot (tarot?) cards out on the table right away...which means I'll be surprised if it becomes a hit. I can't imagine who HBO imagines the audience for this will be, but I'm happy they're airing it nonetheless. Besides- it's got Buckaroo Banzai's Clancy Brown, playing a nutball preacher who (like almost everyone in the show) sees and causes visions, so I gotta watch. For some reason his character reminds me a bit of previously mentioned American Gothic's Sheriff Buck. It's cool to see former Twin Peaks cast member Michael J. Anderson in a role that doesn't ask him to speak backwards, and B-movie queens Adrienne Barbeau and Amy Madigan are always welcome.

Hats off to HBO for putting this on, and I hope they stick with it. If this had been on any of the mainstream networks, it would be off the air in two months max, after multiple time changes and pre-emptions.
OK, now that the birthday stuff is out of the way, here's one of those rambling posts. Brought to you by Coca-Cola and pretzels.

First, wake the neighbors and phone the kids, and let there be drunkenness, fornication, and revelry everywhere because commenter per excellence Shawn Fumo now has a blog! There is hope for this wild, wanton world after all.

Belated thanks for the kind words, Sean Collins! Hopefully, you're not just softening me up for when you tear into me over "Heroes" and Velvet Goldmine...

After going 10-4 in week 3 of the NFL season, I'm now 30-15, not too shabby. Lest I get overconfident, I've got to keep in mind that I'm not considering the spread, which as any gambler can tell you is the real test of a prognosticator. I had a hunch that Arizona might be tough for Green Bay in that desert heat, but I wasn't brave enough to pick that way. The loss by San Francisco made me happy on a personal level, 'cause I despise the Niners, and I honestly thought Cincinnati had a shot against banged-up Pittsburgh. And my Falcons. Oh, Atlanta. Little Feat reference there, snicker-snicker. It's pretty obvious that they have deep problems, and unless they find some confidence and fire somewhere it won't matter if Mike Vick comes back or not. Dan Reeves' conservative play calling is, as always, a problem. Reeves coaches like a man who forgot to take his Zocor. I realize that they've had a lot of success with Reeves, but there have been times when I wished they had someone in charge down there that had a better grasp of the modern NFL game. And all the people that were wondering what was "wrong" with Tampa Bay, good God, people, Carolina has a great defense! Were you even watching that game? They're gonna shut a lot of people down, Atlanta included in a week or so, and Tampa's offense isn't all that potent to begin with! There was nothing "wrong" with the Bucs that a trip to Atlanta couldn't cure. Underacheiving offensively, and overmatched defensively, I'm beginning to regret my 9-7 prediction for my hapless Birds.

And o bitter disappointment, but absolutely no surprise, my White Sox completely rolled over and spread 'em for the Minnesota Twins and blew their shot at the playoffs. It's my curse, I suppose, to root for teams with emotionless skippers. Charlie Manuel, who (if there's a God) will surely get canned at the end of this season, had his charges sleepwalking through what should have been the stretch of their baseball lives. You'd look at the opposing bench for both the Twins and the Royals, and the players would be alive, cheering, yelling- look over at the Sox's dugout and everyone would be sitting around, looking out into space or staring at the floor. Only Frank Thomas showed any life at all. Carl Everett looked a little fired up occasionally as well. Sad.

Looking at the new Diamond shipping list, I see where I'll be getting the following:

JLA #87

It wouldn't be a bad week, cost-wise, if not for that Fables one-shot which clocks in at $5.95. And didn't I say I was gonna drop Strangers? Can't...stop...buying... Oh well, also looking forward to the finale of the best JLA arc in a while, and best of all, a new Promethea!

Music today, so far: Neil Young- Tonight's the Night (I can't think of very many lovelier songs than "Albequerque" and "Borrowed Tune"); Harry Nilsson-Duit on Mon Dei (original title: God's Greatest Hits, which a horrified RCA immediately nixed), Jethro Tull-Living in the Past (I've had "Boureé" in my head most of the morning), Latin Playboys (love "Rudy's Party"), and No More Sad Refrains- The Best of Sandy Denny.